"Brooklyn Eats," the once-a-year
gathering of restaurants, gourmet shops and caterers, wineries
and beverage purveyors is billed as a "food- wine- and beer-tasting
festival," which it is not. Brooklyn Eats is a bacchanal
of glorious scale and, sometimes, gluttonous ruin.
This year’s "festival," which marked its 10th anniversary,
was held on Oct. 3 in the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott on Jay
Street in Downtown Brooklyn. The affair, hosted by the Brooklyn
Chamber of Commerce, was somewhat smaller with fewer restaurants
participating (down from approximately 60 in 2005 to just over
50), but just as heady.
Diners crammed around the tables for tastes (with the newly svelte
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz among them), guzzled
wine, and later, waddled to the backroom where they could rest
until the food hangover hit.
The event had its usual issues: food sitting in chafing dishes
can dry out and too much sameness (how much chicken can one person
eat?). But at each of these events, a few chefs make the price
of entry worthwhile.
Chef Brian Karp of the Park Slope favorite Press
195 offered a distinctly New York sandwich with an unusual
"bread": Slices of crisp potato knish. The hot, gooey,
pressed sandwich was filled with rare roast beef, balsamic caramelized
onions and runny, sharp cheddar cheese. It was messy going but
worth every stain on my collar.
Each year Hugo Amador of Tavern
on Dean in Prospect Heights presents an assertively flavored,
carefully conceived dish. This year’s offering was no exception.
His richly flavored, barbequed, smoked brisket of beef with caramelized
onions on a mini potato roll was two bites of pure, sweet and
There wasn’t a dish at the event that could compete with the
"miso-glazed Chilean sea bass" for elegance or purity
of flavor. Presented by Alan Chai and the chefs at the table
of Arirang Hibachi
Steakhouse in Bay Ridge, the miso glaze added a lovely, nutty
nuance to the silky flesh of the fish.
Allison McDowell and Gary Jonas, newcomers to the event who recently
opened The Farm on
Adderley in Ditmas Park, made a strong showing with two of
chef Tom Kearney’s dishes: a brittle chip (topped with briny
smoked bluefish and sweetened with an apple-onion relish) and
a chewy date filled with goat cheese and a toasted pecan. While
the date looked like nothing special, I noticed people gathering
around their table for seconds and thirds.
The flaky, sesame-topped "bureks," offered by chef
Vitorio Arviv of Miriam,
another Park Slope eatery, were crisp and light with a well-seasoned
center of roasted eggplant, feta cheese and basil. A light dip
of tahini with a cilantro and parsley freshened the works.
Among the abundance of chicken dishes were two standouts: Ken
Deiner, the chef and owner of Bay Ridge’s Amelia
Ristorante, presented a robust "chicken Aurora."
Deiner topped pieces of the bird’s tender breast with roasted
red peppers and grilled eggplant, then added a bit of house-made
mozzarella and a light, boozy chardonnay tomato sauce. Even after
its long rest in the chafing dish, the sauce lost none of its
Cafe brought an outstanding jerk chicken to the works. Chef
Basil Jones’s hens were moist and crusted with enough spices
to ignite a slow flame in my mouth.
On the sweet side
Chef Benjamin Granger – who owns Bierkraft,
a beer and gourmet provisions shop on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope
– teamed up with chef Jean-Francois Bonnet of Tumbador Chocolates
to present an unbeatable trio of ale, sharp cheese and one of
the best chocolates I’ve ever tried: the Tumbador salted caramel.
The candy’s balance of bitter cocoa to salt is addictive.
Pastry chef Katherine Robinson and owner Melissa Murphy of Sweet Melissa Patisserie (now with locations on Court Street and Park Slope) offered slices
of their rich, not-too-sweet cakes. Their almond layers filled
with passion fruit curd and iced with passion fruit butter had
a luscious tart-sweet edge that made eating just one bite – something
I promised myself I’d do before approaching their table – impossible.
Their chocolate devil’s food cake frosted with peanut butter
cream posed the same problem.
You have to love a pastry chef who uses a beautiful ee cummings’s
poem as part of her advertising promotion. After a taste of wholesaler
Erica Kalick’s "traditional style" rugelach, made with
bittersweet chocolate, currants, walnuts and English orange marmalade,
I knew that her cookies were crafted with as much love as cummings’s
glorious writing. To Kalick of Erica’s
Rugelach & Baking Co., I say, "i carry your rugelach
(i carry them in my heart – and on my thighs)."
I waited on line to taste the Brooklyn
Ice Cream Factory’s "mocha java chocolate chunk mini-cones,"
and it was worth it. Fulton Ferry’s ice cream maven, Mark Thompson,
knows how to churn up a mean batch with just the right tinge
of bitter coffee flavor.
For the past five years, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has
sponsored the Brooklyn Eats Scholarships. The $1000 awards are
given to three outstanding students enrolled in the Hospitality
Management baccalaureate program at the New York City College
of Technology, CUNY on Jay Street. This year’s winners are Veronica
Maldonado, Rhonda Rondon and Jude Nwabuoku. The trio, under the
guidance of Professor Louise Hoffman, presented "City Tech’s
Wild Raspberry Cake," a recipe they created for the occasion.
The gorgeous confection of moist vanilla cake, iced with white
chocolate raspberry ganache and frosted with French buttercream,
tasted just as good as it looked.
Until next year, when Brooklyn Eats turns 11, happy chowing.